(Andy Holzman/Los Angeles Daily News)
Big news out of Norman 4-star running back, TJ Pledger (IMG Academy) has announced his commitment to Oklahoma. The Sooners have been in hot-pursuit of the highly-touted running back for some time, and were finally to close the deal during his unofficial visit to Norman.
— TJ Pledger (@uno_tj) March 25, 2017
Pledger becomes the first recruit out of the highly-recruited IMG Academy to commit the Sooners. This is big for a couple of reason. First and foremost, IMG has produced some of the nation’s top prospects over the past couple years. The fact that Pledger will be playing for IMG Academy for his senior season shows he has a promising future. Secondly, the Sooners have a foothold to further recruit prospects out of IMG. Something they have attempted in the past but have been unsuccessful until now.
TJ Pledger becomes the fifth commitment in Oklahoma’s 2018 class. Pledger ranks 32nd in the nation and 2nd at his position (All Purpose Back). The Sooners 2018 class now moves up to 9th in the nation, and first in the Big 12.
This likely doesn’t come as a surprise to many, the Sooners have been favored to land Pledger for some time. That said, this doesn’t make the news any less exciting for Sooners fans as Pledger is one of the elite prospects in 2018. As stated above, Pledger is the first IMG Academy prospect for the Sooners, something that is big in it’s own right but he’s potentially one the most talented back since Joe Mixon.
A few things are going to stand out about Pledger right away. One, you’ll notice his incredible versatility. Pledger is a fast, nimble runner that can slash you up-the-middle or simply beat you to the edge. He’s not a guy that is going to run you over play after play (albeit, he does show some tough running), but then again, he doesn’t have to. Pledger’s bread and butter is making you miss, and his does so with remarkable consistency. However, in Oklahoma’s offense running backs have to be able to catch the ball, and Pledger does that exceptionally well. Most of this is done on quick, short routes or in the flats, but Pledger shows reliable hands and route running ability. Given Lincoln Riley’s creativity with his offense, particularly his running backs, Pledger could be a nightmare for the Big 12.
Another thing you might notice and is bound to be brought up is that he isn’t the biggest back; listed anywhere between 5’8″ and 5’10”, depending what site you’re looking at. Is that alarming? Not at all. With strong legs and a low center of gravity, it is hard for defenders to get leverage on if they hit up high. Add that Oklahoma’s line stands 6’4″ and up, it is easy for defenders to lose sight of Pledger,
Pledger is a name that can and likely will see the field right away in 2018. An already physically impressive athlete, add in a year under IMG’s well-respected strength and conditioning program and you have a guy that is ready come day-one. Oklahoma’s stable of running backs is deep, but given his talent, don’t be surprised if he quickly works his way up the ladder when he arrives in Norman.